Yesterday, Facebook launched a new version of its popular social networking site for testing at new.facebook.com. The site (not compatible with Internet Explorer), marks Facebook’s first major redesign basically since the company launched in 2004. I, for one, am excited to play around with some of the new features and enhancements… and at first glance, I think other users will be pleased as well. Here are some of my initial thoughts and reactions:
- The new design is a lot cleaner than before—a definite step toward avoiding the fate of MySpace’s often cluttered pages. You see, after Facebook launched its developer’s platform last year, many profile pages started to become overrun with animations, graffitti, and other distractions. The new design reorganized the profile page into tabs: one for “the wall”, one for applications, one for basic information, etc.
- The Wall has been moved to the front and center of the profile page, and combined with an individual member’s news feed. As Facebook puts it: “The Wall tab displays most recent and relevant information both about you and by you.” So now, instead of the wall simply being a series of quick posts and messages from friends, it has become a one-stop tab for all recent activities and public communications. It is now the default tab on the profile page, meaning it’s the first thing someone will see on any given person’s profile page. I really like this move, as the news feed and wall are pretty much the only two areas of my friends’ profiles that I would check on a regular basis. Users can also adjust the size of individual posts on the wall to highlight certain information and updates, and can delete posts as they see fit.
- The other static tabs are the “Info”, “Photos”, and “Boxes” tabs. The Info tab displays basic contact/educational/biographical information that doesn’t change that often. It also houses the requisite social network lists that contain a user’s favorite books, movies, quotes, etc. The Photos tab is pretty self-explanatory—it contains an aggregated gallery of all the pictures in which a user has been “tagged,” as well as a bottom-bar with all of a user’s albums. Being that Facebook is the most popular photo-sharing site on the Web (with an estimated 6 million photos uploaded each day), this simplified tab is sure to be popular. Lastly, the Boxes tab contains all of a user’s existing third-party applications. Users can also create dedicated tabs for specific applications they want featured more prominently.
- Another really neat feature allows users to customize their News Feed preferences. Users can use sliders to select the relative amount of specific types of news updates they want displayed on their main News Feed. They can also choose up to 60 friends about whom they’d like more updates, and up to 60 friends about whom they’d like less frequent updates. This is a really nice way of letting users customize and control they types of information that’s being pushed to them. Part of the problem many users were beginning to encounter with Facebook’s rapid growth is that they were getting updates about people they didn’t really care to read about. Now, users can choose to essentially categorize their friends into “good friends” vs. “acquaintances” and only receive updates on the former category. Nice.
- My favorite new feature, however, has to do with advertising. At this point, some of the ads on the site have a little thumbs up/thumbs down icon built in. These are designed for users to provide feedback on specific ads. If a user clicks on the icons, a pop-up appears with a dropdown menu asking them why they did/didn’t like the ad. This will presumably help Facebook better target individual users. The implications of this tiny feature are huge, in my opinion. I like to think that users “get it” and realize that Facebook needs to somehow make money and turn a profit in return for the service it provides. I also think that users understand that advertising is the most natural way for them to earn this aforementioned revenue. Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think users may use this new feature to ensure they’re seeing relevant ads, which will in turn help Facebook earn more ad revenue without neccessitating any sort of privacy invasion. Rather than “scraping” data and information from a user’s profile to serve up relevant ads (which is probably where social networks will go over the next decade), Facebook is opting to let users give them feedback. This is a nice little workaround to the whole ad irrelevancy issue, and nice way to respect users’ right to privacy.
That’s about all I’ve had time to fiddle around with so far. No word yet on when the “new” Facebook will roll out to the masses, but it will probably happen over the next few months. Users that want to take part in testing it out can simply log on to new.facebook.com. Hopefully this doesn’t go in the direction of “New Coke.” It looks like the folks at Facebook have put a lot of time and energy into thinking through this redesign so as to balance the needs of both users and potential advertisers.
Oh—does anyone else find it…what’s the word… interesting that New Facebook is completely incompatible with Internet Explorer (the site will redirect to the standard Facebook automatically in IE)? It’s not just Facebook, Apple’s new MobileMe Web platform also loses much of its functionality on IE. I think the browser wars are heating up once again…